It’s endlessly fascinating to discover what other cultures consider to be normal, especially when they’re at odds with our own definition of that term.
Bird’s nests have been a part of Chinese cooking for more than 400 years, usually in the form of bird’s nest soup. Made almost entirely from the saliva of male swiftlets, when simmered in water the nest becomes gelatinous and supposedly pretty tasty. A bowl of the stuff is quite pricey, running anywhere from $30 to $100 in Hong Kong.
Best cooked with scrambled eggs, pig brains in milk might be one of the most unappetizing things ever canned, and just one can has 3,500 milligrams of cholesterol to boot. Well, it probably makes for great zombie bait!
This is a traditional Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese, but the similarities to your standard Pecorino end there. To start, it’s nicknamed maggot cheese. Fly larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese, and thousands of maggots begin to eat their way through the cheese, breaking down its fats until it becomes very soft and ammoniated. Some remove the maggots before consumption, but others don’t!
Also known as a preserved egg, hundred-year egg, or thousand-year egg, this is a duck, chicken, or quail egg that’s been preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for up to several months. The resulting white becomes a brownish translucent jelly, and the yolk becomes creamy and dark green or gray. The flavor and odor is of ammonia and sulfur, and it can be eaten on its own or mixed into a wide variety of dishes.
A popular winter delicacy in Japan, shirako is the entire sperm sac (milt) of a codfish, with a smooth texture that’s been compared to pork brains. It can be steamed and served in broth, pan-fried, deep-fried, or eaten raw.
One of Scotland’s national dishes, haggis reportedly tastes pretty good as long as you don’t think about what’s in it: the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep, mixed with onion, oats, and spices, encased in a sheep’s stomach (or nowadays, sausage casing), and boiled for a few hours. Enjoy!
The national dish of Iceland has what you may call an acquired taste. In order to make hakarl, a shark is beheaded and gutted before being buried in gravelly sand, weighted down with rocks to press out fluids, and allowed to ferment there for six to 12 weeks. Then it’s cut up into strips and hung to dry for an additional several months. The resulting product is fishy, ammoniated, and according to Anthony Bourdain, "the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing" he’d ever eaten.
Heinz sells more than 650 million bottles of ketchup per year, all in one color: red. But in 2000, they decided to stage a bizarre experiment: change the color of their ketchup to green. It was a huge success, and blue, pink, teal, orange, and purple ketchups soon followed. But the fad quickly died down, and the ketchups were discontinued in 2006.
Also known as “corn smut,” huitlacoche is a fungus harvested from infected ears of corn. It’s usually used as a filling for tacos and quesadillas, and actually has a pleasant, mushroom-y flavor.
For a couple brief, shining years in the early 2000s, you could not only dip fries in blue ketchup, you could dip blue fries in blue ketchup. That’s because in 2002 Ore-Ida introduced what they called Funky Fries in three varieties: blue-colored, chocolate flavored, and cinnamon flavored. The product failed miserably, and was discontinued the following year.
A favorite of reality cooking competition shows like Chopped, this is actually just what it sounds like: a whole, fully cooked chicken, in a can. While it may seem completely ridiculous, Amazon reviews seem to indicate that it’s great in soup.